Sunday, December 7, 2008

Enthusiastic Teachers

In the past week I have been chatting with other teachers in the staffroom. I’ve been encouraged by the enthusiasm of the newer teachers as they discuss their ideas for the future and speak with excitement about their professional learning and plans to implement Developmental Curriculum in the early childhood classrooms. On the flip-side, I’ve heard a couple of teachers saying that they are no longer interested in their professional development and are just happy to continue teaching using the methods they’ve learnt and come to depend upon.

With this disparity in the thinking of a group of teachers, it’s easy to see why the two will clash. One group desires to learn and change, while the other group feels there is no need. And it isn’t just an age thing either. There are many older, more experienced teachers who continue to look for ways to improve their teaching, and try to keep their methods relevant and interesting to the children coming into their classes.

I feel disheartened when I see teachers who are just hanging in there, waiting out the time until their retirement. I feel sorry for the children in their classes who are left with a dull, worn-out impression of learning. I worry that I too, will one day come to that stage in my teaching where I stop caring and run out of the energy to make learning fresh and interesting each day.

I came across this article about Teacher Enthusiasm Research that reviews the findings of a number of studies on the impact of a teacher’s enthusiasm on student learning. It argues that teacher enthusiasm makes a course more enjoyable, entertaining and memorable. The study goes on to look at levels of teacher enthusiasm as expressed through vocalization, eye contact, facial expression, movement and gesture. This study observes the occurence of these things in both a beginning teacher and a more experienced teacher. While I believe these physical aspects can be learned and developed, I feel that a portion of enthusiasm actually comes from within.
While these aspects definitely communicate a teacher’s enthusiasm about the topic, a lot of a teacher’s enthusiasm (particularly with young children) is also expressed before the lesson is presented – in the creation of lessons and the preparation of resources. Teachers who are lifelong learners themselves are going to motivate students to love learning more than teachers who have reached the point where they know it all - aren't they?

Is there a point in a teacher's career where he/she can honestly say that they have perfected the craft? Or is it out of laziness, boredom, or exhaustion that they give up trying?


  1. I'm a teacher and I can proudly say that I always love what I do, I love d children and above all, I love d expressions on their faces on exams' result day.

  2. Right now, for me, it's due to illness ;)

    I think there's also a middle ground, too. Some teachers, once they've found strategies that work for them, are going to be understandably less inclined to go out and search for new techniques.

    They may also be resistant to trying new things. If you're struggling, ANYTHING new is likely to be an improvement. But if you've got good stuff, then you might be exchanging it for something that's not as good. So I think it takes more PROOF that a new strategy is better than an old one, once teachers feel confident in what they're doing.

  3. You make some great points Clix. When you're run-down, it's nice to be able to fall back on the fail-safe techniques.

    I think that one of the big reasons I try new things is because the variety gives a bit of a spark to things when you're losing interest in the things that have become routine. Routine is definitely important, but trying something new always excites me and gives me something to look forward to.

    I don't generally take on something new to replace what I am already doing, but I take the ideas, play with them a little and then combine them in some way with what I already do. As I work with the new idea, it may become bigger or smaller in my programming as I determine how well it works and how my students needs are being met.

  4. We don't do ourselves or the children we teach a service if we lack enthusiasm. The children can sense the excitement in a teacher when dealing with a topic. It is infectious. For those who claim to have lost their enthusiasm, they devalue themselves and what they can do for a class.


I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions. Please don't be shy...